Dancing around the conflict in Ramallah

Shyrine Ziadeh dreamed of studying ballet abroad, but once she realized how much she could help talented girls in Ramallah, she put aside that dream and opened her own studio.

Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor
Shyrine Ziadeh leads one of her three classes at the Ramallah Ballet Center, which she opened in December 2011 with the help of her family.

In a place as unpredictable as the West Bank, a reporter meets quite the cast of characters, from militants to grandmothers. But Shyrine Ziadeh is the first and only interviewee who has greeted me in ballet tights and a sheer skirt.

This young woman, who opened the first ballet studio in the West Bank in 2011, is refreshing in many other ways as well.

She has Israeli friends, and hope. Those are rare commodities in the West Bank these days, where there is increasing social pressure not to associate with Israelis until they end their occupation of this land where Palestinians want to build a state of their own. Most Palestinians don’t expect Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to budge, and they’re not too enthralled with their own government, the Palestinian Authority, either. 

“I don’t know if they’re giving up … but they don’t have the motivation to continue defending or at least have an opinion about what is happening,” says Shyrine, who has both Arab and Jewish friends in Israel.

I actually don’t know what Shyrine thinks about Israel or the PA; we didn’t talk about it (another rarity).

The occupation does pose obstacles for her, of course; she mentioned that because she doesn’t have a permit to visit Jerusalem, 30 minutes away, shopping for tutus and tights for her kids can require an international trip to Amman, Jordan.

But on an afternoon visit to the Palestine Ballet Center, Shyrine didn’t express the cynicism has become part of daily life for many Palestinians.

“Sometimes it’s weird to tell people you have friends living in Jerusalem but we actually have many [Israelis] with us, with the Palestinian cause.

“I love to see how we could live together,” she adds, “because we’re living in the same area but we don’t know each other.”

Read more about her studio here.

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